I rarely write about anything outside of running but I wanted to take this post in a little different direction today. If you’re easily uncomfortable and don’t want to hear about breasts, you may want to move on. I’ll be back with regularly scheduled running programming in a few days.
My beautiful mom- just weeks before she died
Today is the third anniversary of my mom’s death. She died at the age of 60 after an intense 18 month battle with breast cancer. I rarely publicly acknowledge this anniversary or the corresponding missed birthdays, holidays, or other celebrations that continue to go by each year. But this year however, I want to share my recent experience with my first mammogram and I thought today would be a good day to do so.
Typically a woman goes for her first mammogram at age 40 and then each year after. Because of my family history, I was recommended to have one as soon as my mom’s diagnosis. However I became pregnant shortly after and nursed my son until last summer so I was not eligible for a mammogram until this month. Once eligible, I made an appointment but because of my age (35), I also had to meet with the Doctor to discuss the history and what to expect in the next years as I age given my history.
I had no idea what to expect. I have heard everything from “it’s no big deal”, to “it hurt like hell and I thought my boobs were going to explode.” I have a fairly high pain tolerance so I wasn’t concerned about the pain. However anytime you are squishing your boobs into a machine, there is a bit of fear factor involved!
I arrived and promptly was led back into the office after some paperwork detailing my family cancer history. I changed into a gown but was able to stay dressed from the waist down. The Doctor greeted me shortly after and went over the day’s agenda: a thorough breast exam followed by a mammogram. She also strongly recommended genetic testing to determine if I am the carrier of the mutated gene responsible for some types of breast cancer. Because of my family history, I have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying the mutated gene and if that gene is present, a 95% chance of developing breast cancer sometime in my life. For comparison, the average woman has a 1 in 400 chance. Although I wasn’t able to do the genetic testing that day, I will be going back for it next week.
After the exam, I walked over to another part of the office, still dressed in my fun green outfit. I stored my belongings in a locker and was led into another office with the actual mammogram machine. It was dimly lit and small and seemed designed to be as low key and soothing as possible. All that was missing was some soft spa music. The technician expertly and efficiently guided me into the mammogram machine as she took both front and side images. So this is where it get’s a bit uncomfortable and I think where some would say it’s painful: you are quite literally “handled” to ensure you are in the correct position and that the image has as much tissue as possible for the radiologist to review. It’s not so much the pancake boob thing but the attempt to get the pectoral muscle in view. That was definitely the source of discomfort for me and left some pretty pink pressure points on my chest. The pectoral muscle is high up so getting that all in view for the imaging was tough but with some contorting, the tech was able to make it happen.
And that was it-the whole thing took probably 15 minutes total including waiting time. I was led out to the waiting room and than back to the original Dr’s office where I again met the the Doctor who reviewed my results. Yes-it took just minutes for the radiologist to read them and give the results to the Doctor to review with me. No waiting, no agonizing. Right then and there, you are informed of what the next step is. For me, this means the genetic testing as mentioned above and if all is clear with that, I get to hold off on my next mammogram until age 40.
Not mine 😂
I’m glad it’s (almost) done and over with, at least for now. During the period of pregnancy and nursing when I couldn’t get a mammogram, I oftened wondered and worried. Like many people, I asked myself “what if” quite frequently and shoved that thought down in to the recesses of my mind. I know that with my family history, I do have an elevated risk so it was important to me to be proactive. My mind will fully be eased after the genetic testing.
I write this post with the hopes that maybe someone will see it and reach out for the guidance they need. This disease (along with ovarian and uterine cancers which also are fairly prevalent) affects each and every one of us. I write this in the hopes that maybe this will encourage someone to get that mammogram they’ve been putting off. Or talk to their Doctor about genetic testing. It was so quick, so easy and so (mostly) painless. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share a little bit of my history and now back to all things running!